10 December, 2010

garden aticle

The sun is now setting at the earliest hours of the year for a while. I find the weeks immediately after the New Year the most depressing. After all the holiday season is over the college football season done and the Super Bowl is still a month away. I mean what is there to do when the ground is frozen, it's dark and little to do? The biggest tease to me is that during the first weeks of January the days are getting longer. But still it is dark before 5 PM. The joke gets worse later in the month when the sun is just above the horizon when I pull in the driveway. Then I get out of the car and BLAST! Cold winds being thrown down from the Catskills on us poor souls in the valley between the mountains and the river. I guess the "beings" in the mountains are getting us back or sharing with us the colder weather and shorter seasons they have. Small price to pay I say for the better view of the horizons east and west they have than we do.
There is a small glimmer of hope this time of year in the garden world. Your local greenhouse. The inside of you car is a nice warm place on a sunny day in January even without the blower scalding your knees or knuckles with the same scorched air from your indoor furnace. The difference is that in a greenhouse you do not need your seat belt and an air bag will not go off if you bump your shopping cart into a table of plants at 2 MPH. Insurance on shopping carts is also cheaper since they do not go as fast and you don't really own them but rent them from the shop owner. I say rent because when you buy a tropical plant part of the price goes to pay for the shopping cart you just rammed into the plant display. I am not sure how the damage to the display table gets paid for.  
Another advantage, the best of all, is the humid lung repairing air in a greenhouse in the winter. Cold winter air just hurts when you inhale deeply. Scorched air from a car heater or furnace also hurts when taken in deeply. There us just something calming about a tropical greenhouse in the winter. Whether it's the longing for return of summer weather or just a respite, however brief, from Old Man Winter, humid warm greenhouse air has a healing affect on me and others. Add to that a fountain or pond filled with swimming fish and it is irresistible. Madison Avenue could not come up with a better marketing plan than a greenhouse in January.
While not possible without large wads of cash and even bigger oil tanks to recreate the entire experience at home we can create a  small piece of a tropical garden in a room in our home. Most plants end up in living rooms. Not a bad place. But is the living room a place we spend a lot of time in in the winter? How long do you stay in bed in cold weather? Have you ever thought of taking the private sanctuary of your bedroom to the next level? A tropical paradise perhaps even with a table top fountain or at least a nature CD of waves, birds and moving water. 
You already have part of the equipment for complete relaxation away from the TV. A bed, huge comforters and if like me several pillows. Also nearby is a lamp to read by and a small bookcase complete with 6-10 books I am in the middle of reading. Most master bedrooms have at least some windows. These windows have at least a 50% chance of facing the right direction to support life (plant life).
Should you not have windows facing the right direction there are plenty of light fixtures that fit neatly onto bakers racks that can hold many plants all in one tidy garden space. Plants clean our air by filtering out toxins like formaldehyde. They also provide oxygen. No amount of houseplants will provide enough oxygen for our needs but they will give you fresh air like never before. Plants by their very nature have a calming and nurturing effect on people. Any doubters of this fact just need to visit a greenhouse on a sunny day in winter.
Smiles abound people slow down and enjoy the experience.
A simple primer on light for indoor plants. During the winter the sun is low enough in the sky so most any plant can handle direct sun. The best light for most of the year is called bright indirect light. This simply means as much light as possible without getting any direct sun. This is generally just to the side of south facing glass or 6-8 feet across the room from such facings of glass. The same quality light can be gotten directly in an easterly window or a western window that gets early evening sun.  
Medium light comes from  sitting directly in a northerly facing window. No room for error here. Moving to any side out of the northern exposure and you end up in the dark in most cases. Very few plants grown in dark areas.
Room color plays a huge role in lighting for plants. Brightly painted rooms scatter light all around offering up larger canvasses of bright light and limiting areas of medium or low light. On the other hand dark colored rooms limit dramatically the bright light areas as the darker colors soak up rather than spread light around.
And last and most important for "planting up" a master garden suite, always by the plant for the lighting you have or will provide. Do not buy a bright multi-colored Croton if you have dark walls and no plans on running plant lights 8 hours a day. Plant care tags should have the lighting and care instructions right in place sight. Often the light needs are color coded. Yellow usually means bright light and purple or dark colors indicate plants that will take lower light conditions.
So there you have it...........a remedy for the winter doldrums and a healthy start to the New Year.

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